Always Be Prepared, and Other Lessons from an UnConference in Boston

November 23, 2014

Last week, we took up temporary residence in Boston and spent three whirlwind days meeting some of our nearshore software development services customers, prospects, potential partners, and influencers from all around the Boston technology ecosystem. Since we know you’ll ask: yes, it was cold. But we managed a 7-mile run along the Charles River, went to 7:30 a.m. meetings at Babson College, got invited to a Celtics game, and of course earned new badges on UnTappd.

The capstone to the week was a full day at the MassTLC UnConference, a unique event that brings together a couple hundred people–investors and inventors, marketing execs and engineers, start-up CEOs and tech industry veterans–for an entire day, without an agenda in advance. So, we gathered our ideas and pitched for a slot on the agenda, which was made up on the spot. Our concept: Training Developers for the Marathon, Not the Sprint.

We were pleased to be chosen for the agenda, and thrilled to have a lively and engaging discussion with the attendees who came to our session. But what really impressed us was the level of engagement and excitement that everyone at the UnConference showed: Bostonians may be known for their reserve, but this crowd was absolutely passionate about bolstering and exploring new ideas in the Boston tech scene.

We learned a lot during our stay in Boston–so, in the UnConference spirit of collaborating and sharing, we thought we’d offer a few lessons learned:

Always be prepared

In Boston, that means an extra jacket, a big stack of business cards, and ideas that can nab you an impromptu presentation slot at a conference. We went to the UnConference with only a concept, but left having delivered a well-received presentation and with new connections that have strengthened our ties in the Boston area. And when we met with business contacts from an angel investment community, we were given an impromptu invitation to their monthly meeting– at 7:30 the next morning.

Because we approached the experience with an open mind and a flexible agenda, we were able to get more out of the experience than we would have with fixed ideas and a rigid schedule.

When in Rome…

The old cliche about adopting some of the behaviors of those around you when you’re in a new place holds true. Lucky for us, this wasn’t just about learning how to navigate the winding streets of downtown Boston at New England speeds. It was also about enjoying local beers with the team at our PR agency, as well as developing a dialogue with a Boston-based customer about market penetration strategy for 2015.

Of course, adapting to a new place and making one’s own mark are equally important. So we talked up Puerto Rico–and predict that our next team meetings with Boston-area partners and customers will happen here in San Juan…

Inspiration comes from unexpected places

When we made our plans to visit Boston, we did a lot of strategizing about the kinds of partners–customers, members of the investment community, etc.–that might be a good fit for our business. While we did meet with some terrific potential customers and community influencers, we also found that our connections to new people and companies opened up new thinking about how we will grow our business. From the guy running a startup that crowdsources cures for disease to the head of MassTLC, we lost count of the new ideas that came from casual conversation.

Above all, we had a great time in Boston–so great that we barely noticed the weather forecast predicting snow on the day we flew out. We’re looking forward to our next UnConference, and our next trip up North. But maybe not before March…

 

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